How to Introduce Cats and Dogs
You’ve probably heard the old adage “they fight like cats and dogs.” But would you believe it if we said many cats and dogs CAN co-exist? Better yet, sometimes, they even become friends!
While not all cats and dogs are destined to be besties, you can help create domestic bliss by taking the right steps when introducing them. Here’s how:
Make a Plan!
Whenever possible, have your house ready before bringing a new animal home. Have a room where you can safely confine your cat, and don’t forget to leave a comfy bed, litter box, water, toys, and a scratch box. Also, remove anything potentially toxic, like plants, lotions, or medications.
Prepare Your Dog
It’s easier to have a controlled greeting when your dog responds to basic commands, like sit, stay, and lay down. Whether your dog is new to your home or a longtime resident, continuing to work on these foundational skills will help with all interactions in the long run.
Keep Everyone Separated
Even if your new pet is healthy, you want to keep cats and dogs separate for at least 3-4 days when they’re getting to know each other. This is an important step because your animals can get to know each other through smell and sound, but they won’t feel threatened by face-to-face greetings.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Food
When your animals are separated, feed them or give yummy treats near the barrier. That way, they can have a positive experience that involves their new sibling – even if they can’t see them.
Try a Controlled Greeting
When your pets seem calm and curious about what’s outside the closed door, you can try an introduction. Make sure your dog is leashed and let the cat come out of their sanctuary on their own. Share dog and cat treats liberally and try to keep everyone calm. Watch their body language closely and, if either animal appears aggressive or afraid, calmly distract them, and end the greeting by returning the cat to their sanctuary.
Manage All Interactions
Continue with controlled greetings on a daily basis and save treats for when the animals are together. If the cat tries to escape, let them. It’s also helpful to put up baby gates so a dog can’t pursue the cat or raised areas like tables or scratch towers where cats can escape but still observe.
A Taste of Freedom
When your cat and dog seem calm while in the same room, you can drop your dog’s leash so they can interact more freely. Don’t remove the leash yet because it can be easier to regain control if tension erupts.
Take It Slow!
Remember, it takes time to make friends and get to know someone. Don’t rush it, keep supervising all interactions, and continue separating your pets if you’re not home to keep an eye on things.
It’s also important to note that some dogs and cats just don’t get along, and each introduction is different. If you’re thinking of adopting a new pet, talk with your vet for additional tips. If you already brought your new pet home and things aren’t going well, ask your vet to recommend a professional trainer for advice.